Tag Archives: Oakland University

ISE graduate begins career at the Disney World

By Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

Kimmy Romstad is using her Industrial and Systems Engineering background to help things run smoothly at the “happiest place on earth.”

Photo/Kimmy Romstadt

Photo courtesy of Kimmy Romstad

After interning at Disney World for a year, the August 2014 Oakland University Industrial Systems Engineering alum recently accepted a position in forecasting and stocking costuming issue locations across the Disney property.

“Like many other Cast Members (Disney term for “Disney employees”), Disney holds a special place in my heart, as I cannot remember many childhood experiences more exciting than visiting Walt Disney World,” Romstad said. “Having had such great experiences visiting the parks, since I started college I made it a goal to either intern, work full-time, or both with The Walt Disney Company. I wanted to be part of the magic, behind the scenes, that delivers such an amazing guest experience.”

During her internship, Romstad learned the inner operations workings of different exhibits on Disney, and succeeded in contributing to them.

Later on, a former supervisor reached out to her about the opening, and she started in the Creative Costuming position this past June.

“As an ISE student, I was extremely curious and interested in working for The Walt Disney Company as an Industrial Engineer,” Romstad said. “I wanted to learn about all of the backstage operations that exist in order to produce a world-class entertainment experience for millions of guests each year. I wanted to be a part of the magic and help their business to be more efficient and productive, and thus, enhance the guest experience.”

The location had familiarity to her previous work at the resort, and so far she said the experience working there full-time has been great, though different.

The forecasting and stocking costumes position was created recently, and Romstad described it as “a liaison between the Inventory Planning team within Creative Costuming and the operational costuming issue locations.”

Unlike her internship, however, in this position she works on a different team and has more day-to-day responsibilities rather than long-term projects.

“The good part for me is that this position allows me to work on (the) leadership skills I haven’t previously had many opportunities to develop, such as being influential and persuasive, and learning how to train people and communicate information effectively,” she said.

Work done at Oakland University also helped her prepare for her career with Disney.

Her ISE courses and deep involvement in the program gave her a real-world perspective of what could be done in her field.

Robert Van Til, Professor and Chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering department within the School of Engineering and Computer Science, said Romstad represented the school and ISE well, and that this job will be a good fit for her.

“Besides being an excellent student, Kimmy has been a great ambassador for the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, assisting us with outreach activities and student engagement,” said Van Til.  “We wish her all the best in her new position at Disney.”

In addition to her academic efforts at OU, Romstad was also very involved on campus. She belonged to Tau Beta Pi, Society of Women Engineers, Institute of Industrial Engineers, and National Society of Black Engineers, which additionally helped prepare her for this role.

“In my ISE courses at OU, there was a lot of real-world application, which helped me to understand an IE’s role in ‘the real world.’ Without the experiences I had in my classes at OU, I wouldn’t have been able to hit the ground running at an internship like this.”

To learn more about the Industrial and Systems Engineering Dept. at Oakland University, visit oakland.edu/secs/ise.


Going green on campus with help from academic programs

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

The Oakland University Engineering Center was completed in Fall 2014.

The Oakland University Engineering Center was completed in Fall 2014.

With eco-friendly courses and clean energy efforts across campus, it’s no surprise that Oakland University has a good reputation for “going green.” Infrastructure and courses help build morale towards energy efficiency, from the power supplied to the campus to the School of Engineering and Computer Science itself.

“Energy-efficient buildings have made a huge difference to the entire university,” said Louay Chamra, dean of Engineering and Computer Science. “These clean energy systems provide a healthy indoor environment for the students, faculty and staff. Furthermore, we are being a great neighbor to our surrounding communities by caring about the environment and implementing many energy conservation techniques to qualify for top LEED honors.”

Efficient facilities 

From the Human Health Building (HHB) to the Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) and the new Engineering Center, OU is filled with an abundance of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly establishments.

OU’s campus will utilize multiple existing and planned sources of on-site clean energy, according to James Leidel, director of Clean Energy Systems. A Central Heating Plant gas turbine, SECS microturbines, solar projects and a dual-fuel diesel-gas peaking system, among others, are the separate entities of clean energy at the school.

“It saves money, and being energy-efficient is the right thing to do,” Leidel said. “These buildings are examples of green technology and clean energy. What better place than a university to engage in this sort of technology? Universities should be at the forefront to demonstrate and to educate.”

Human Health Building
The HHB was completed in fall 2012, and is the only campus building certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation in Michigan, assisted by Leidel’s $2.75 million geothermal technologies grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The building features energy-efficient LED lighting, a geothermal heating and cooling system, recycled materials, a 50kW solar PV system on the penthouse and a large solar thermal system to assist the geothermal cooling with summer desiccant dehumidification.

Engineering Center
While it hasn’t yet been designated LEED, the Engineering Center is very energy-efficient and would rank Gold, according to Chris Kobus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Outreach and Recruitment.

Chilled beams cool the building, two 200kW Combined Heat Power (CHP) microturbines provide a large portion of electricity and waste heat is brought back into the building for space and water heating.

Clean Energy Research Center
Another innovative clean energy building on campus is the CERC, which uses LED and induction lighting and is heated by a high-tech, automated wood chip boiler.

The CERC was made possible with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Chamra said that the goal is to make the entire campus “the first sustainable campus in the US.”

The CERC is embedded in the OU INC, a Smartzone business incubator located on the OU east campus’ Shotwell Pavilion.

U.S. Department of Energy grants helped fund the CERC bio-energy demonstration modules and building wood chip boiler, the geothermal/solar-thermal system for HHB, solar PV projects and an outdoor LED lighting pilot project with DTE Energy.

“Heating the entire campus on wood chips would make an even more significant impact,” Kobus said.

The study and proposal undertaken by Leidel, formerly with Facilities Management, culminated with a public bid and a third-party financed proposal. However, as natural gas prices fell, the project was shelved in favor of a Central Plant CHP gas turbine.

In October 2013, the OU Board of Trustees approved Chevron Energy Solutions to undertake a public-private partnership for a 4.6MW natural gas CHP system.

The Chevron group recently spun out to a new company, OpTerra Energy Services, and installed and operates the CHP system to help power and heat the campus. Switching from mostly grid coal to clean-burning natural gas with waste heat recovery will lower OU’s environmental footprint by 40 to 50 percent.

From 2006 through 2008, wind speed data was collected on a 50-meter-tall meteorological tower and a wind power study was commissioned by Leidel.

Resources for learning 

In addition to being an eco-friendly energy producer on campus, the CERC provides engineering students and faculty with a place for research projects and hands-on opportunities with operated bio-fuel production systems.

“Clean or renewable energy is important because of the great environmental and economic benefits,” Chamra said. “In addition, the clean energy systems will be used as living laboratories for SECS students and faculty to study and conduct research.”

While there is a limited budget, there are still many volunteer and internship opportunities — paid and unpaid — to help students gain class credit and real-world experience.

Students can come to Kobus or Leidel to help on existing projects, or pitch proposals of their own.

“I definitely want more people here helping,” Leidel said. “Students get to see hands-on real equipment — it’s not just lab-scale. We have real equipment operating and they’d work with hardware and prototyping. I focus on real-world experiences in the university environment.”

“All the buildings built on campus, including HHB, the new residence hall and the new Engineering Center, are being designed as living laboratories.”

— Chris Kobus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Outreach and Recruitment

In addition to research, the building and structure of the campus can be a clean energy living laboratory.

Through outreach programs, younger students get a taste of engineering and computer science, during week-long summer STEM camps.

Students tour campus, where they learn how the grid works and are shown the modern architecture and green design and technology of the buildings.

“As part of the outreach program and the one-week camps we brought here in the summer, there are always tours going on there and it’s not a campus tour like admissions does, it’s more of a technology tour,” Kobus said. “We’ve gotten great feedback on the tours. The kids love seeing technology in action — they’ve seen some really neat stuff.”

According to Kobus, the buildings also provide great research experience for University students to learn outside the classroom without going too far away.

His students learn from the school’s energy system and efficient buildings; and many professors take their students to CERC for research and field trips.

“All the buildings built on campus, including HHB, the new residence hall and the new Engineering Center, are being designed as living laboratories,” Kobus said. “We can teach students theory in the classroom with little table-top experiments to get practical experience, but to go out and see it in its full form — that’s really what we want. So when we design these buildings, we design them with the perspective that we want this to be part of a learning laboratory for students to be able to tour through and see the technology in action.”

Education in energy 

With the resources available, it’s also important to understand how everything works. More energy-focused courses are being made available for students.

Recently, classes in energy efficiency have been proposed and added, and now engineering students can take their studies a step further with the new energy management master’s concentration. Kobus described it as a course teaching how “to optimize energy distribution systems, better manage environmental resources and help employers or clients significantly reduce energy costs.”

The class “Alternative Energy Systems” goes over major energy technologies. There is also a hybrid electric battery course and a fuel cell class, in addition to a series of three other conservation-focused energy management courses that will be taught executive-style next summer.

“The one technology that is truly clean is the energy you never use, so if you can learn to do more with less, not using energy is the cleanest thing you can do — conservation is number one,” Kobus said. “In the alternative energy universe, if you don’t have conservation first, simply switching to other sources makes little sense.”

Leidel is looking to launch more classes in clean energy to drive the importance back home and give students more experience learning about power systems engineering and combined heat and power systems.

“We have a lot of infrastructure projects,” Leidel said. “The existence of the Clean Energy Research Center, combined with multiple infrastructure projects provides a comprehensive educational front in clean energy systems. Students are drawn to Oakland by the visibility of these systems, classes and web sites.

Many students have stated that they come to OU because of the things we’re trying to do with solar power, and the platinum LEED building we have on campus. Clean energy is a significant area of focus for many universities, so to have that here is hopefully a draw for students.”

Right now he is developing a proposal for a clean energy and power engineering program, which could be offered as a master’s program in Clean Energy Engineering.

“The United States is a little behind in clean energy investment,” Leidel said. “However, in Michigan, we have a huge amount of engineering and innovative capacity that can be channeled into the clean energy sector. Here at Oakland, numerous clean energy projects have created a living, learning laboratory for students to experience these systems first hand, and learn. =As additional engineering courses are brought online, they can capitalize on this unique infrastructure.”

New social app makes a “Buhz” on campus

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

A new social application is growing in popularity at Oakland University. Founded by computer science students Chuck Kelly, Brett McIsaac and Zach Fregoli, ‘Buhz’ connects people on campus, getting word out about events, and

Photo/Chuck Kelly

Photo/Chuck Kelly

helping build communication.

Described as “Twitter for college,” the idea for Buhz came to Kelly as a freshman — he wanted an easier way to know about social things on campus, so he could get involved while still focusing on school. From there the idea grew from a concept into a full application.

“A more connected, more informed campus would probably be the short answer (for what this app provides), but it’s so much more than that,” Kelly said. “Even this early on while the product is still rough we have had couples that met through Buhz, countless friends made, freshmen students have found out and joined orgs they otherwise would not have known existed.”

Currently, the app is available to OU and University of Michigan students, primarily for iPhone, but is in development for Android and the Web.

With thousands of students signed up, the campus feed provides a good outlet for users to share their thoughts, ideas and campus news with members of the university community.

Keeping the app to just two schools and one phone have helped the team find out what students want, which Kelly said allowed them to go in just a few updates “from a product students like to a product students love.”

“We have (received feedback) and the feedback has been great so far, but it’s a lot more than making a solid app that people think could be useful, it needs to be special,” Kelly said. “It needs to make people smile and light up when they use it and it needs to keep users interested and coming back. Right now we’re working on these types of things and they are sort of like the final touches to an app.”

To download the application for iPhone, visit buhz.com or the App store. The invite code GRIZZ can be used for immediate download.

For more information about the computer science program at OU, visit oakland.edu/secs/cse.

OU mechanical engineering alum takes skills overseas

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS
Charon Morgan never thought about moving away from Michigan — the place where

Photo/Charon Morgan

Photo/Charon Morgan

she grew  up, started her family and started her career.

Now, the 1996 Oakland University mechanical engineering graduate lives and works in Shanghai, China, where she took an executive job with General Motors over a year ago — and  she said it was one of the best life choices she ever made.
“It’s important for people to really stretch themselves and get out of their comfort zone to experience something they never thought they’d do, because that’s been the best experience  for me,” Morgan said. “I never thought two years ago that I’d even be here.”
Growing up in Romeo, and going to school in the area, Morgan lived in Michigan her whole life.
Immediately following her graduation from OU, she began her career at General Motors in technology and validation.
“Oakland was such a great experience,” Morgan said. “I recall working very, very hard, spending many hours every day in the library with teams — I remember working in a lot of teams. The one thing that sets OU apart from discussions I’ve had with my colleagues and experiences with other schools, is spending a lot of time in the labs. The fortunate part of that was you had the theoretical message in the lecture, but then you really got the hands-on experience when applying it in the lab, and that also taught you to work very effectively with teams, which is really what you do in the real world.”
What started as a primarily technical and chassis career led to more design and management work.
Morgan’s current position focuses on “optimizing the way engineering functions are run” at General Motors, working to boost efficiency with the company there.
Being with the company for almost 20 years, she had rich experience that made her a good fit for the job. In this position, she is working to better the market’s needs, which vary in other
countries based on fuel economy regulations among other criteria.
“As a global company, GM has engineering centers located around the world, and China is where the industry has high growth projected,” Morgan said. “There’s growth now, but there will be an even more rapid pace of growth in the future. With that in mind, understanding how we can operate the business on the other side of the world to be as efficient as in the U.S where we have such a mature automotive industry, is great for us as a global company. Being able to collaboratively spread regional knowledge and apply it to our emerging countries is key.”
The move to China wasn’t easy, however. Morgan has three sons, and nobody in the family spoke Chinese. Professionally, verbal communication wasn’t an issue, since most of her Chinese peers speak English, but interacting in society was a bit more of a challenge.
However, Morgan said communication goes beyond speaking, both in the professional world and through personal interactions.
“You can learn a lot about people and how they feel based on their emotional and physical mannerisms, so you learn how to communicate with them without speaking as much,” Morgan said. “Chinese culture is very different. But China ultimately wants the same thing as the U.S.,  Germany, Brazil and other countries. Globally at GM we all want to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles. We’re really focused on utilizing the global capabilities that we have to build our company to be the best it can be.”
From college to the present, Morgan has been involved with the Society of Engineers (SAE), and currently serves on the Board of Directors.
“My transition from student to professional life was seamless because I had great experiences with the OU staff and professors. Plus, with all of the labs that were required, I learned how effective teams can work together,” Morgan said. “I was able to bridge some of the student-to-professional gaps through my involvement with SAE, which was how I met up again with Brian, one of my first professors at OU.”
When Charon first became an SAE board member, she ran into a former professor and fellow OU alum, Don Hillebrand, a 1984 mechanical engineering grad and current Director of Energy Systems Research at Argonne National Laboratory.
Hillebrand said he remembers Morgan’s ambition and dedication from when he taught her as an undergrad.
“I remembered Charon because she was a very good student,” Hillebrand said. “She stood out as the one who got all her work done and left, as opposed to everyone else who just goofed off, which is why I remembered her. When I saw her on the board, it was clear she had done very well for herself.”
Through SAE, Morgan has done various projects, including leading a group in the reinvention of SAE’s mission, and consistent involvement in the board-sponsored education outreach programs.
While on the board, Morgan has continued to be very involved even after her relocation to China, continuing to attend meetings and participating in calls.
“While she (Morgan) was on the board, she was called to go to China on assignment, first temporary and now permanently,” Hillebrand said. “But she’s continued to attend all board meetings and all calls. It’s amazing how much she’s doing and she’s a tremendous asset. There’s that saying if you want to get something done, find a busy person and ask them to do it. That’s the definition of Charon — she has so many things going on but if she volunteered to take something on, it was done quickly, it was done very well and it was done very efficiently, with a really good attitude.”
Though she sometimes misses home, Morgan is enjoying her career in China, and said it was one of the best decisions she’s made. She recommends taking the time to experience something new at least once in life.
“Hard work pays off and it’s so important to step outside of what you’re used to and do something a little different — take a risk, put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, or stretch yourself, because those are the times in your life, and in your career, that you’ll cherish those experiences….. you will cherish them the most and learn the most,” Morgan said.

SECS outreach programs boost engineering interest among youth

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

outreachweb3Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) provides a great place for students to learn more about the field of engineering— and not just those admitted into the program.

From camps, to field trips and special “engineering days,” OUSECS has a variety of outreach programs to get children and teens interested in engineering and related fields. 

“My favorite part (about outreach) is watching the students get excited about what they’re doing,” said Chris Kobus, director of outreach and associate professor of engineering. “I used to do a majority of the material, but now I have a staff of students and I get to watch and see the progress of the students. The kids are very happy — it’s a great feeling.”

The hands-on activities started about 4 years ago, when the school started offering general engineering and computer science exploration summer camps. 

A relationship began with Pontiac Schools, and gradually, camps expanded from general exploration camps to more focused programs. 

After positive feedback from the parents and kids, the camps have expanded greatly — providing more options and facilitating an increase from 100 to about 700 attendees in the summer alone. 

“From mid June to mid-August, the students are here all day, everyday,” Kobus said.

STEM camps take place on OU’s main campus, the OUInc business incubator and the Macomb County satellite Anton Frankel Center. OU engineering undergrads and other local engineering students lead the camps, instructing the hands-on activity, which they plan with direction from Kobus.

While the camps benefit the community, they also help the program grow. With jobs increasing in the engineering field, more graduates are needed, so gaging students’ interest — and indulging and encouraging them in those interests early on — is crucial.

“Around 7th and 8th grade, parents start talking to their kids about what they want to do,” Kobus said. “Having an opportunity to come out to a STEM camp — either a focused camp or general exploration camp where they learn a bit of everything — helps kids get acquainted with what the substance is, and get excited because now they get to decide what math and science courses they might take next year, and into high school. If they want to be in the STEM field, they’ll need to take a certain pathway to get there, so this both prepares them and lights their fire for the subject.”

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) camps focus on hands-on, project-based learning. Students have the opportunity to apply material and themes to real-world situations, through experiments and projects, for a unique learning experience.

Noelle Rossetto, who is home-schooled, found out about STEM camps from her sister. Attending them was enjoyable for her, and the work she did made her more interested in engineering and computer science.

“It was really fun,” Rossetto said. “I did a lot of stuff that I haven’t done before, and that I honestly didn’t think I could do. Making web pages was my favorite, because I liked writing the code. I would definitely come back again.”

Rochester Hills resident Kristin Schreck enrolled her children in STEM camps for the first time this summer, and said they will
attend again next year.

Abby Schreck, 11, and Nate Schreck, 9, both took part in an Engineering Exploration week and had a great time learning new things.

“I think the most valuable part of the camp was that my kids were able to see a side of science and technology that they don’t webget a lot of exposure to in school,” Schreck said. “The topics were current and relevant, and taught by experts in the field. Lessons were explained to them in a technical way, but in a way they could understand and get excited about and have fun with. The counselors were excellent too, and explained so much about OU’s campus during the tours.”

Kobus said the camps have continued to grow, and in turn, have boosted enrollment in the OU Engineering and Computer Science Programs. 

He said he plans to continue adding more outreach programs each year — from STEM camps to field trips and visits to schools — because of the positive effects they have on everyone involved.

“The whole point is to get more students excited about STEM,” Kobus said. “For every student who graduates, there’s two or more job openings — we can’t possibly fill them all without increasing enrollment. It (STEM) has done quite a bit for our enrollment. Since this program got rolled out a few years ago, our enrollment has almost doubled. From 2009-2014, we’ve almost doubled the number of students we have. We’re growing this year— about 20 percent. You don’t see that kind of growth in other units on campus. So what’s different? The outreach program. We’re getting the name out there.”

For more information about the outreach program, visit oakland.edu/ouinc/outreach.

Mechanical engineering student awarded academic scholarship

By Stephanie Sokol for SECS

Photo courtesy of Stephen Powell

Photo courtesy of Stephen Powell

Stephen Powell was recently awarded a $2,000 academic scholarship from engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi, for the 2014-15 school year. Powell studies mechanical engineering at Oakland University.

Contestants submitted essays, letters of recommendation, volunteer experience and class standing both in the engineering school and department, in order to be considered for the award.

“I was very excited to find out that I had been awarded the scholarship because Oakland had recently raised its tuition for upperclassmen, and I knew that I could use the extra financial aid,” Powell said. “Since I plan on attending graduate school, any kind of financial assistance in my undergraduate years is appreciated.”

Mechanical Engineering was something Powell became interested in back in high school, after discovering his passion for math and physics through advanced placement courses.

He is currently a senior, studying within the Honors College, and has industry experience from his work at General Motors and United States Steel.

“My favorite part of the mechanical engineering program is my interaction with the professors,” Powell said. “The small class sizes allow the professors to get to know you on a personal level. This makes attending office hours much more enjoyable and allows me to learn better.” 

Powell got his start with TBP in October 2013. 

Through the society, he has had the opportunity to help others, and meet more engineering students and professionals. 

“I have very much enjoyed working with TBP for many reasons,” Powell said. “One reason is because they are very involved in volunteer work and giving back to the community. Many people may recognize us as the ones who host the bake sales at the entrance to Dodge Hall a few times every semester. We usually donate all funds we raise at the bake sales to Gleaners Food Bank. 

“Overall, I enjoy doing volunteer work with my classmates and friends within the organization.” 

OU Mechanical Engineering student awarded ‘best overall’ intern at JCI

By Stephanie Sokol for OU SECS

Photo/ Vincent Seefried

Photo/ Vincent Seefried

OU Mechanical Engineering student Vincent Seefried was honored “best overall” at the Johnson Controls Inc. Intern Expo, for his achievements with the company.

Out of 31 interns working at the company this summer, Seefried was the only one from OU. 

“The engineering graphics and CAD course at Oakland prepared me to use use Catia V5 for part and assembly design,” Seefried said. “This background allowed me to develop different tools and fixturing for conducting tests at JCI.”

Seefried started working with JCI’s Plymouth location through SECS last February, and began his full-time summer internship on April 28.

His focus there was on integrating a digital image correlation system into the Technology and Advanced Development (T&AD) group. He also said he worked to reduce variability in test set ups and camera calibration by creating fixtures and work instructions for those processes. 

Through his display, Seefried showcased that research, as well as illustrating the experimental dome testing fixture that OU students designed for JCI and its value to the JCI teams.

“After the expo there were different awards handed out for best presenter, most innovative, intern’s choice, and best overall. I was honored to receive the award for best overall, for displaying what I have accomplished here at JCI,” Seefried said.

For more information about Oakland University’s Mechanical Engineering Department, visit oakland.edu/secs/me.